#Ukraine: providing and receiving support

Joint Open Letter to European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on Supporting Ukrainian Academia During and After the War

Supporting Ukraine during the war

Eurodoc has been discussing ways to support Ukrainian academia in times of war since February 24, 2022, particularly within the dedicated Ukraine Task Force, which came up with specific recommendations early in September. We joined forces with our partners ICoRSA, MCAA, and YAE to discuss the proposals and shape a shared vision on the matter. To make our voice heard, we now address the Europen Commission with this vision via an open letter to Ms. Mariya Gabriel, the respective Commissioner. The full text of this open letter is published below and is available on Zenodo.

21 October 2022

Mariya Gabriel,
European Commissioner for Innovation,
Research, Culture, Education and Youth
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels

Dear Ms. Gabriel,

Eurodoc, ICoRSA, MCAA, and YAE stand with the people of Ukraine and fully condemn Russia's ongoing illegal war on this independent nation. As part of the international movement of researchers at all career stages, we are particularly concerned for all our colleagues affiliated with academic institutions and other research facilities of Ukraine, as well as for the sustainability of the Ukrainian academia at large under the devastating impact of the war.

Our organisations commend your solidarity with the Ukrainian research community and inspirational leadership in devising dedicated support measures. We see and welcome numerous initiatives worldwide on different levels to support Ukrainian academia and individual researchers, amongst which the ones by the European Commission look particularly promising, such as the recently launched MSCA4Ukraine fellowship programme.

Moreover, we particularly took note of the association agreement of Ukraine with the Horizon Europe and Euratom Programmes entering into force in June. Your comment at the time regarding the strength of the partnership is one that we share. It is the importance of the nurturing of Ukraine’s research and innovation talent, as well as the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine that you mentioned, which led us to reach out to you with this open letter.

Given the current uncertainty and complex nature of problems, finding the most effective ways to support Ukrainian academia is challenging and requires engagement with diverse stakeholders. Thus, we conducted a series of consultations with researchers, civil society, and decision-makers inside and outside Ukraine to discuss the situation and co-create solutions that will make a tangible impact while being feasible.

To summarise our findings, after satisfying the urgent need to help displaced Ukrainian researchers, we suggest focusing on involving higher education institutions and research-performing organisations from Ukraine in research and educational projects within existing European programs such as Horizon Europe, Euratom, and Erasmus+.

If successful, this step will give short-, mid-, and long-term effects, particularly allowing to:

  • prevent brain drain from Ukrainian academia, as the researchers and other professionals will be able to work in Ukraine and simultaneously avoid additional pressures in already strained national academic systems of EU member states through the accommodation of Ukrainian scientists seeking refuge;
  • allow male researchers and educators unable to cross the Ukrainian border (martial law restrictions) to collaborate with international partners without relocating;
  • financially support individual researchers in times of national and local budget cutting;
  • help to rebuild the ruined infrastructures and support existing ones;
  • give many members of Ukrainian academia the experience of working inside international teams, which will familiarize them with European research culture and workflows while fostering the EU integration processes.

We thank you for your call to “actively pursue cooperation with Ukrainian entities and researchers” within Horizon Europe and Euratom program and for the great news about setting up the Horizon Europe office in Kyiv shared during the European Research and Innovation Days. These, for us, are clear indicators that the Commission fully acknowledges the potential of European projects in ensuring the sustainability of Ukrainian academia.

However, we understand that, due to the unfortunate circumstances and many organisational gaps, working with Ukrainian institutions might often require excessive additional effort and lead to increased uncertainty for international consortia, highlighting the need for extra incentives for partners to pursue such cooperations as various obstacles range from a lack of pre-existing connections to language barriers.

Thus, we urge you to introduce additional motivation measures within the current Horizon Europe, Euratom, and Erasmus+ programs until the end of 2027, specifically:

  • making the involvement of Ukrainian institutions a cross-cutting priority to be included in the evaluation of proposals and/or as a crucial selection factor ceteris paribus;
  • establishing criteria for Ukrainian entities to be eligible for the above priority (e.g., this might only be valid for higher educational institutions and research-performing organisations with special rules for most affected) and for the terms of participation in consortia (e.g., only full partners with the minimum allocated budget of 5%); 
  • promoting these rules among the official EC channels and introducing a specific search filter for eligible organisations in the funding & tender opportunities portal;
  • adapting the existing interventions to strengthen those participating countries lagging, including the Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence actions, to provide additional measures adapted to Ukraine's exceptional state of emergency.

We understand that the proposed measures might lead to an increased number of projects to be funded and thus to additional financial pressure on Ukraine, which will unlikely be bearable in the upcoming years (e.g., the country's foreseen budget of 2023 includes almost 50% of expenditures on defence and security). Hence, we further ask you to continue to waive Ukraine's financial contribution to Horizon Europe and Euratom Programmes (as it was in 2021 and 2022) until the end of the war and for as long as necessary thereafter.

We understand the potential impacts of the above-mentioned interventions on the outcomes of the Horizon Europe framework programme and in particular for the EU13 states. Hence, we further advocate for the recognition that it is necessary to renegotiate with the European Parliament on increasing Horizon Europe's overall budget. Moreover, we want to highlight the necessity of including the higher education sector from the very beginning in the discussions on rebuilding of Ukraine after the war. 

We stay at your disposal for any further consultations on the matter.

Signed by Oleksandr Berezko [President European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (Eurodoc)], Gordon Dalton [Chair International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA)], Fernanda Bajanca [Chair Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA)], and Gemma Modinos [Chair Young Academy of Europe (YAE)] on 21 Oct. 2022.

Eurodoc, ICoRSA, MCAA, & YAE. (2022). Joint Open Letter to European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on Supporting Ukrainian Academia During and After the War. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7235977